What is a Patella Fracture?
The kneecap or patella forms a part of the knee joint. It is present at the front of the knee, protecting the knee and providing attachment to various muscle groups of the thigh and leg. The undersurface of the kneecap and the lower end of the femur are coated with articular cartilage, which helps in smooth movement of the knee joint. A fracture in the kneecap is rare but common in adult males.
Causes of Patella Fracture
The most common cause of fracture is a direct blow to the kneecap such as a fall or a motor vehicle accident. The patella can also be fractured indirectly, due to a sudden contraction of the thigh muscles.
Symptoms of Patella Fracture
Pain and swelling are the predominant symptoms of a patella fracture. You may also experience the inability to walk and difficulty in straightening the knee. Sometimes, bruising may also be seen around the fracture site.
Diagnosis of Patella Fracture
The diagnosis of a patella fracture comprises of a physical examination, history of the injury and X-ray imaging to determine the nature and severity of the fracture. The X-ray is the most common and widely used diagnostic tool for identification of fractures.
Treatment of Patella Fracture
The treatment of a patellar fracture depends upon the severity and nature of the fracture.
Non-surgical treatment is the first line of treatment when the patella has not been fragmented or displaced. Casts or splints may be used to straighten the knee and help in the healing process. Immobilization of the affected limb for 6 to 8 weeks may also be recommended.
Surgical treatment is suggested in case of displacement of the fractured fragments of the bone or if the distance between the fractured parts is too far, impeding the healing process. Immediate surgery may be recommended in case of open fractures where the fractured site is exposed through the skin. The type of procedure to be conducted depends on the nature of the fracture. Transverse fractures are fixed with the help of wires and pins and a "figure-of-eight" configuration tension band while in a comminuted fracture, the small bone fragments are removed from the knee joint.
Rehabilitation after Patella Fracture Treatment
Rehabilitation plays a vital role in helping you resume your daily activities after healing of the fracture. Treatment of the fracture may cause stiffness of the joint and weakness of the muscles. Physical therapy, joint mobilization, and muscle strengthening exercises or weight-bearing exercises are helpful in regaining strength and preventing deformities.